Catriona Sandilands

Professor and Canada Research Chair in Sustainability and Culture

York University

Catriona Sandilands' broad work is concerned with environmental cultural studies, environmental/ecological literary criticism, environmental writing, queer ecologies, ecological feminisms, nature and environment in social and political thought, and everyday human/plant relations, vegetality, and botanical biopolitics. Since her appointment to the faculty of York University in 1994, she has considered her primary task as a teacher, writer, and researcher to be the cultivation of the “plurality” of which Hannah Arendt writes so eloquently. Sandilands believes we build and perceive a common world only insofar as we are articulate and passionate speakers of our own, unique relationships to it. This necessary connection of worldliness and plurality strikes her (even if it might not have Arendt) as especially true for our relationships to natural environments: only by developing a deeply particular understanding of the natural communities of which we are a part can we appear to one another in common to discuss them, and only by holding our perceptions up to the scrutiny of others can we understand our own individuality.

Reading and writing environmental literature is thus, in its exceptional focus on the tending of this relationship of plurality, a vital part of the development of an environmental public sphere. Sandilands understands her writing about Jane Rule and Derek Jarman, alongside yet quite different from her teaching of Henry David Thoreau and Catharine Parr Traill, as related acts to encourage understanding through specificity.